Feature: What Do We Want From Games?

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Have you ever sat on the sofa, office chair or throne staring into the screen of your television or monitor as no games spin in your PC or Console tray, quietly waiting for a perfect reality and your dream game to appear? Let us step into this zany, creative world where a Utopian games developer has stepped forward to conform to your every need. What do we want from games? Rory Mullan investigates…

Project Spark, like Little Big Planet before it, will give gamers the chance to create their own games.

Project Spark, like Little Big Planet before it, will give gamers the chance to create their own games.

When little Johnny asked for the latest iteration of Call of Duty, and his knavish mother had put ‘Math Time History Adventures Science Xtreme’ in the case, he hadn’t anticipated what would come next. Rage overcame him, his anger boiling up as he twitched with fury. Educational and historical experiences are welcomed by regular Low Fat Gaming’s community man Luke Kennedy, but he clearly wants it to be done in a galvanic way.

I’d like something that offers interaction and choice based on major events in Earth’s history,” he begins, “One minute you could be choosing to sponsor Leonardo Da Vinci’s work, or even something simple like going to your mistress or visiting your wife and children just before the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.” Sounds exciting? Luke has even more extraordinary ideas. “Your choices affect future events also, so no interaction go’s unnoticed. There even would be free roam sections to explore an area in history and look at, and interact with trivial details Kojima style.

The Assassins Creed series has long mixed real-world history with gaming fiction, inspiring gamers to learn the truth.

The Assassins Creed series has long mixed real-world history with gaming fiction, inspiring gamers to learn the truth.

Many games have toyed with principles similar to Luke’s. Assassin’s Creed is the flagship example, the writers tying historical events – from the ferociousness of the Third Crusades, stretching to the battle for American sovereignty – into intriguing fiction, combing that into an action experience. Whether that action experience is good or not is another question entirely, but the series does have many engrossing and intelligent historical story writing, and it something that Luke clearly wants to see more.

 A wide variety of video games also introduce consequence of player action or decision into their stories. From the final frontier of Mass Effect, the savage, irradiated Nevada of Fallout New Vegas, to adroit components of Metal Gear Solid 3, this is something developers clearly want to experiment with and harness. As it becomes more and more mainstream – now even Call of Duty features it – we can gradually consider it be essential in the development of games.

More and more gamers want choice in their games, and developers want to give it to them.

More and more gamers want choice in their games, and developers want to give it to them.

This change represents so much – and could be considered as one of the primary symbols of how computer games have developed since their earliest beginnings in the 70s – and is so craved for, developers can no longer satisfy many gamers with producing blockbuster games that are completely devoid of freedom of choice.

Low Fat Gaming reader Andrew Falconer is also fascinated with evolving choices and worlds – while giving it a real-world spin. How about a career RPG? “Morality would play a big part, mainly because getting ahead in your career won’t strictly be doing the right thing every time,” he reports while capturing my enthusiasm “the characters that surround you will shape that game and the choices you make also. Like any job, your co workers can be nice, funny, miserable, corrupt. Who your superiors are, who your partner is, all shape the game. Do you report corruption or join? Do you bend or break the rules or play it by the book?”

Andrew also wants social interactions to be fleshed out and featured. It is something of a infrequency for games to feature the development of human relationships. Andrew wants this empathized in his perfect game, and it is challenge games rarely tackle. Catherine and Persona are chief representation, but like player choices, they are slowly beginning to find cosy places at the top of any developers priorities. Suspenseful combat games like Mass Effect and Grand Theft Auto are beginning to underline and understand human relationships and why they are relevant to players, and more games are likely to follow.

Many gamers felt the best part of Catherine was spending time with your buddies at the bar.

Many gamers felt the best part of Catherine was spending time with your buddies at the bar.

Community member Adam Findley follows the trend of desiring a world that is effected heavily by the player. “A PC game where 99.9% of the game world is in flux, shaped only by your imagination” Adam begins “You will be given a randomly generated landscape on which you build the location of the game.

Once you have finished sculpting your world, protagonist, antagonist, adversary, goon, pedestrian can be individually designed, even named and assigned back stories” continues Adam “After the location and characters are designated, you can build up your own city, choosing where the bad guys headquarters and the good guys hangouts, beauty spots and industrial dens are located etc. You can drive and customize any land, sea or air vehicle and stunt jumps are generated randomly.

The game then plays like a generic open world GTA RPG/TPS, with a twist. You can choose the tone of the game’s storyline; Rags2Riches/Riches2Rags/Grim/Glamorous. Your characters complete/appear in/prevent a set number of pre-selected missions to advance/obstruct a forever branching storyline. Once one character’s story has finished you can replay the game from scratch OR switch to another allied character and play as new one.

Microsoft's 'Always On' plan came under-fire but many gamers seem to crave persistent worlds that the cloud can create, like Sunset Overdrive.

Microsoft’s ‘Always On’ plan came under-fire but many gamers seem to crave persistent worlds that the cloud can create, like Sunset Overdrive.

Completely sculpting entire game worlds by the player maybe unique to level editors, but games have gradually allowed players to manipulate and toy with the hub and with its mechanics. In Dishonored, if the player chooses to kill their way through the game, more rats will appear around the city of Dunwall. Alternatively, a clean, stealth run would result in quieter, cleaner streets; reflected the morality of your decisions. In earlier Grand Theft Auto games the player is able to purchase buildings and build monopolies.

Maxim Taite-Ellis has similar desires for a world to be harnessed and featuring very open choices. “I would like The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks to be in a game, set in Midcyru, you could go anywhere, and fill in any role. Become a Ka’karifier, lead the Sa’kage or Chantry, become warrior, smuggler, or meister. Visit Ladesh, Khalidor, or Ymmur’s Steppes, anywhere in the books and beyond. Find Cu’roch or Iures. Anything. The genre would, of course, be an open world setting with free-roam abilities. A variety of different combat styles and Characters/NPC’s and quests from them, featuring all characters from the books. There would be no levels, just learning as you normally would. Want to be a mage, choose a talented character and apply for one of Ceura’s brotherhoods!

That sounds exceptional! A world so open and vast with so many choices, with different combat styles. A game that allows for players to be dropped in a carve their own path is increasingly desired with astronomical sales being reported from Bethesda’s classics Skyrim and Oblivion, and with the increasing interest in the ultra-hardcore Dark Souls and Demon Souls – the frightening pillars of modern (videogame) punishment.

Skyrim offers a multitude of choice. Some gamers don't even follow the main storyline.

Skyrim offers a multitude of choice. Some gamers don’t even follow the main storyline.

Like Adam, Maxim desires an open world setting. Gamers are clearly desiring games that allow for grand interaction and exploitation of worlds – with massive interest and purchases of Saints Row and Grand Theft Auto – and the enthusiasm doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. With Grand Theft Auto V being one of the most anticipated entertainment products in the history of the civilized world, and intrigue and hype for Saints Row 4 swelling.

Games in the open world and RPG format without levels are not very common. The author is aware of no games that are open world and RPG-like that feature no leveling up system or levels, but a design decision without levels or guidance does intrigue. Games that increasingly allow the player to explore the world and discover his or her own path are craved, and games like the upcoming Witcher 3: Wild Hunt  and The Elder Scrolls: Online appear to not only allowing this, but promoting it.

Denise Baker also desires a world that the player can completely harness and will allow the player to develop not only as a character, but as a catalyst for heroics. “My perfect game would be a RPG with a sci-fi space setting. It would span several years with lots of choice, a deep story you become part of, great settings, dusty planets, futuristic cities, space stations and plenty of aliens and monsters. Throughout you will gain friends, allies and enemies that will impact events later on in your story. Plenty of upgrading and customizing especially you ship (research & resources)” she says, exciting the author greatly.

You would start off a young rogue with nothing and trying to work your way up in the world. You take local jobs to earn credits, leading on to become part of a crew exploring the galaxy, eventually opening up the option of owning your own ship and hiring a crew of your own to then becoming part of something bigger (more areas open up the higher you ascend)” countinues Denise, following the trend of wanting a world were the player can decide their own path and gradually rank up, but she doesn’t step there.

The Division is mixing single-player with MMO features - and lots of player freedom.

The Division is mixing single-player with MMO features – and lots of player freedom.

I like the idea of not just a good/bad scale but greys areas when it come to choices ,where who is good and who is bad it not clear-cut. I want big risk/big reward; will you do what needs to be done even if it’s the extreme for what you think are the right reasons? You can choose the type of people you work for, the jobs you do when owning a ship – even how you get your ship!

 As mentioned, Denise – like Maxim and Andrew – wants a world were the player can carve their own path, selecting what route to follow and what decisions to make. She also – like Maxim – presents the idea of having a world where different groups with different morals and ideals, as we particularly see in Bethesda games, can be joined or fought against, allowing the player to decide where they want to draw the line and how they want to present themselves inside their game worlds.

What does all this tell us?

 Everyone featured declared that he (or she) would like a game that places apparent emphasis on player interaction with the world, and it changes as a result. It clearly shows that interaction by the player with what is presented in the game is incredibly desired, and this would make up a significant portion of what influences player’s interactions occur. From alternative history, to the far reaches of space everyone wanted a world where the players interactions are truly felt and significant.

Another common theme is that all games involve RPG – or RPG like – elements.

Sports titles such as FIFA 14 have a huge amount of RPG elements. It's clearly what the modern gamer wants.

Sports titles such as FIFA 14 have a huge amount of RPG elements. It’s clearly what the modern gamer wants.

The purpose of a role-playing game is to play a role, everyone wants the choices and opportunity to reflect any character they want in the game. When we are asked why we play games, we often point to the fact that it allows us to escape the imperfections of the real world. If we can simulate an alternate persona for us to place our faith in and truly commit to, gamers will go nuts for it. I think that this is one of the primary reasons that games like Skyrim and Mass Effect are so popular, because they provide a slate to reflect our personality onto.

Something interesting to note is that no games described are even roughly akin to the relentless, – and for want of a better word – derivative monstrosities that are the hyper unrealistic fast paced combat shooters like Call of Duty and Battlefield that are released each year, but all games they postulate are striking similiar in mechanics to the critical acclaimed Mass Effect, Grand Theft Auto and Elder Scrolls games. Players clearly want intelligent, considered experiences. Perhaps even across the spectrum of all gamers, with the long-term sales of CoD slowly declining, are these opinions radiated broadly?

The industry is slowly moving closer to these more intelligent experiences, but we will always have a market for hyper intense, fast paced combat shooters. Upcoming titles like Watch_Dogs and Thief 4 are all set to feature involving worlds, difficult and engaging choices and interesting characters, providing experiences similar what is desired in this article. It’s what gamers want.

– Rory Mullan. Follow him on Twitter @thenomadprophet

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